By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday a reception will be held marking the anniversary of a specialty program at Children Hospital. Leaders from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Children’s of Alabama, as well as families who have been treated in the program, and partners in the fund raising efforts have all been invited.
According to the written statement 7-year-old Natalie Fox was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis six years ago. Her symptoms were so severe that she was completely unable to move one of her legs. It took two months time, her pediatrician, an orthopedist, and surgery to diagnose her condition. Around the same time Dr. Randy Cron came to Birmingham as the first director of the UAB Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at Children’s of Alabama. Young Natalie was one of his first patients.
Natalie’s mother, Rachel Fox said, “I don’t want to think about where Natalie would be without the care she has gotten from this program. Without this level of care, she could be in a wheelchair. We’re blessed to have these doctors and nurse practitioners so that my daughter and so many others can live a somewhat normal life.”
The Pediatric Rheumatology Program is a partnership between UAB, Children’s of Alabama and the Arthritis Foundation that came to fruition five years ago when a small group of volunteers led by the Arthritis Foundation, UAB and Children’s joined forces to raise money for better care for children with arthritis. Their commitment led to the Arthritis Foundation’s $1 million commitment to fund an Endowed Chair in Pediatric Rheumatology. The position filled by Dr. Randy Cron.
Sandi Falkenhagen is an Arthritis Foundation volunteer and a member of the original group which raised the necessary funds for the endowment. Ms. Falkenhagen said, “We knew too many parents that were traveling hundreds of miles for care, or that were going without the best care simply because of a lack of services in our state. We knew things had to change for kids with arthritis in our state, and that we needed to be the ones to step forward.”
During these last five years, the clinic has had more than 8,000 outpatient visits. Patients come to Birmingham from all over Alabama, the Southeast and from foreign countries as far away as Greece. It is an ACGME certified training program in pediatric Rheumatology, and is one of the largest programs in the United States.
Research findings from the program have been published in professional medical journals. Dr. Cron, Dr. Tim Beukelman, and colleagues have written the standards for care in juvenile idiopathic arthritis, published in 2011.
The Arthritis Foundation is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of arthritis. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States and afflicts 50 million adults and nearly 300,000 children. The Arthritis Foundation is the world’s largest private nonprofit funder of arthritis research, investing more than $450 million in strategic initiatives that have resulted in treatments which have benefited countless patients. The Arthritis Foundation also fights for health care policies that improve the lives of millions with arthritis.
Children’s of Alabama has been providing specialized medical care for ill and injured children since 1911. UAB is Alabama’s largest employer and is an internationally renowned research university and academic health center.